Image for Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

Scientific name

Castilleja coccinea


Indian paintbrush is a biennial wildflower that typically grows less than 0.5 m in height. It usually consists of a basal rosette the first year and produces a flowering stalk the second year. The central stem is usually green or reddish brown and covered in small hairs. The leaves are alternately attached, stemless, medium green coloured, have entire margins, are lance shaped, and are deeply divided into 3-5 lobes, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. The actual flower of the plant is small, yellowish green in colour, and hidden within the large, showy, fan shaped, reddish orange coloured, bracts. The colouring on the bracts look as though they have been dipped in paint, giving the plant its common name. Since this wildflower has no surface for insects to land, it primarily attracts pollinators that can hover, such as Hoverflies and Hummingbirds. The roots of this plant are unique in the way they help to prevent erosion, as it is a partially parasitic plant. Roots grow until they touch the roots of other plants, frequently grasses, and then penetrate the roots of these host plants to obtain a portion of their nutrients. This creates a more intricate root system with other plants around that helps prevent surface soil erosion. However, this rooting ability makes Indian Paintbrush respond poorly to being transplanted.

Planting conditions

Indian Paintbrush grows best in moist conditions with full or partial sun exposure. It prefers well-drained, sand or loam soil types. This wildflower can be found growing naturally in moist forests, moist fields and meadows, prairies, and along stream or lake shorelines.


  • Plant height:
    • Max 1.5m
    • Max 2m
    • Max 3m
    • Any
  • Moisture level:
    • Moist
  • Light conditions:
    • Full sun
    • Partial sun
  • Soil type:
    • Sandy
    • Loamy
  • pH:
    • Normal
  • Depth:
    • Wildflower
  • Eco Zone:
    • 5a
    • 5b
    • 6a
    • 6b
    • 7a
  • Plant type:
    • Wildflower
  • Height:
    • 0.5 m
  • Spread:
    • 0.5 m